Recommendation Letter Options - Out of School Since '10 - Military

Hello! I am going to be applying to the 2021 cycle (submitting application June 2020) and have a few questions regarding letters of recommendation.

  1. If I am going to be submitting my application June 2020, when should I start asking for LoRs?
  2. I am unsure of protocol/best practice here. When requesting LoRs, what additional documents are good to provide? Should I attach a resume? Should I attach a brief letter about my goals and pertinent information? Should I attach a draft letter in some instance for the recommender to use as a starting point (very unsure about protocol with regards to this)? Because of the types of LoRs needed (more to follow below) some of the people I may end up asking know me very well, and some do not know me as well.
  3. I finished undergrad in 2010 with a biomedical engineering degree, but I commissioned in the Navy shortly thereafter. I am fairly certain hardly any of my undergrad professors remember me, nor could they write a LoR in much detail about me and what I did in undergrad and have done afterwards. Should I still seek to obtain a LoR from an undergrad professor? I took Organic Chem at nights while active duty at a local community college, and the professor got to know me and we connected. Should I ask him for a LoR? I am unsure how an LoR would look from a professor at a 2-year college. I plan to ask my previous commanding officer for a LoR because he got to know me extremely well over 2 years and over 1 deployment. Would that type of letter carry weight with an AdCom? I also plan to seek an LoR through clinical volunteering I have done while on shore duty.

I am just trying to see where I should be looking to get LoRs considering my background - out of undergrad since 2010 and active-duty Navy since 2010 (still active-duty).

Thanks for any guidance and thoughts!

I was active duty for 10 and out of the formal classroom for about that long. See below from one of my prior posts. There’s also a post somewhere from me that included where I applied (in 2013) with those LORs I think…

LORs depend on school policy. Not all schools require letters from specific people, though many prefer/require prof letters. I limited my applications to schools that either didn’t absolutely require prof letters or ones that I contacted and had the requirement waived. I was 9 years removed from the classroom and didn’t want any online prof LORs, for obvious reasons. I had 2 docs, my supervisor and my commander write me letters.

SWOberry (and anyone else who’s similarly interested in this issue)…

Kennymac’s right on target. It really seems to depend on the school. Just browsing around several sites, you see a diverse set of requirements for Letters of Recommendation/Evaluation. It seems some schools are understanding of not having professor-written letters, but you may have to provide a cover letter for the letters explaining why you aren’t able to get a professor’s letter.

For example, USUHS states that “If your undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, or graduate institution has a pre-medical committee that produces a letter of recommendation, then that letter, in addition to a letter from someone that has viewed you in a patient care setting, is sufficient to meet the requirement. Otherwise, please submit two letters from professors in the natural sciences, one from a professor in a different field, and one letter from a writer that has worked with you in a clinical setting. If you are not able to furnish any of the required letters, please send in the letters you have, along with an explanation about why you are unable to obtain the missing required letter(s).”

The TMDSAS system advises, “Evaluators should know an applicant well enough to evaluate him/her both academically and personally. It is recommended that your evaluators be current/former professors that can speak to your academic ability in the sciences.”

Albany Medical College states, “Between 2-4 individual letters of recommendation. The admissions committee prefers letters from a faculty member who speaks to your personal attributes and scholastic abilities. If you are not sending a letter from a faculty member, you may provide a letter from a supervisor from either a paid or volunteer research or clinical experience. The maximum number of letters is 4.”

Creighton gives a nod to non-trads, “Bachelor’s degree completed before September 2016? Please have three letters of recommendation sent from persons familiar with your recent scientific work or study experience. Letters must be dated during 2017 or later and signed by the letter writer.”

Those are just a few examples. Honestly, it seems that the plurality of schools are understanding and may just require an explanation. I’m in the same boat and frankly I’m relieved to see several schools are understanding.

Good luck! I’ll be applying the same cycle.